3 Ingredients Robert Irvine Always Stocks In His Pantry - Exclusive

Ever wondered what professional chefs keep stocked in their kitchens? Not the fancy ingredients you'll find in high-end restaurants (we're looking at you, ancient, mysterious saffron). The everyday items they use for everything from a simple breakfast to an involved holiday meal. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, we asked Chef Robert Irvine of "Restaurant: Impossible" fame about the ingredients he always reaches for. "I'm very particular in the way I put things together and the spices and the herbs and the rubs that I use," says Irvine.

Salt and pepper are a chef's best friend, and Irvine is particular about his. "I do not use kosher salt or iodized salt. I use sea salt that's freshly ground." If you've ever wondered about the different types of salt and how to use them, take advice from a master chef. Sea salt has a subtle mineral flavor that distinguishes it from other varieties. By grinding the sea salt Irvine can control how it sprinkles, dissolves, and adds texture (or doesn't). 

Irvine is also picky about his pepper and only uses peppercorns that are freshly ground — never packaged pre-ground pepper. "Remember, peppercorns are supposed to be heated before you use them [to bring] out the essential oils of the peppercorn, and it completely tastes different," Irvine explains. He uses a coffee grinder to grind the peppercorns (which creates a little bit of heat to release those oils) and uses the ground pepper within a week before grinding again.

An alternative to olive oil

Olive oil may be the name on most peoples' lips, but according to Robert Irvine, it isn't the best choice for cooking. Olive oil has a relatively low smoke point (375 degrees Fahrenheit), and extra virgin olive oil has a pronounced flavor that can impact the final taste of your dish. Chef Irvine only uses olive oil for dressings, and instead opts for a more neutral oil when it is time to cook.

"I use grapeseed oil because of the higher [smoke point] and it has zero flavor," explains Irvine. That lack of flavor allows your other ingredients to shine through, which is particularly important for delicately flavored proteins like seafood. "So, if I have cooked with fish or shrimp or scallops, all I taste is the scallops instead of the bitterness of the olive oil." Grapeseed oil is made from — you guessed it — grape seeds, and has a smoke point of 420 to 445 degrees Fahrenheit, making it durable enough for searing, roasting, and grilling. It also has more vitamin E than olive oil, so it's a great addition to your kitchen. Irvine's most-used ingredients — salt, pepper, cooking oil — might be humble, but attention to detail can make a world of difference. Just ask one of our best and busiest chefs.